Dear Colleagues,

 

Welcome to Fall! This coming weekend our new and returning students will be moving back into the dorms and to campus life. We are pleased that our new students include over 1500 transfer students. With the additional transfer students expected to join our campus in Winter 2019, the campus is well on its way to achieving the mandate of enrolling two freshmen for every one transfer student (2:1) – many thanks to all who worked to make this accomplishment possible.

 

We are also excited about the 64 new Senate faculty who will join UCR during the 18-19 academic year. Among this cohort are Patricia Cardoso, a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Directors branch), two Nobel Laureates: Barry Barish (2017 Physics Noble prize) and UCR alumnus Richard Schrock (2005 Chemistry Nobel prize) and talented young teacher-scholars who begin their academic careers as members of our Highlander family.

 

While we know well the good work our faculty and staff do to make UCR an outstanding student-centered research university, it is also gratifying when we receive external recognition for our efforts. I was so excited to see UCR ranked by US News and World Report (USNWR) as the country’s 35th best public research university (85th overall). As a result of a change in the USNWR rankings to focus more on metrics like social mobility and Pell student graduation rates, our campus jumped 39 spots – more than any other campus in the country! This news came on the heels of our being ranked by Money magazine as 32nd out of 727 US universities. UCR is also excelling in research and graduate education with our interdisciplinary Materials Science and Engineering program recently ranked 28th in the world by the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities. This puts UCR ahead of UW-Madison (29), UPenn (33), Rice (34), Carnegie Mellon (35) and Columbia (48). With this momentum, it is exhilarating to think about all we will be able to accomplish in the coming year!

 

WASC Accreditation Visit. On October 24-26, a team from the WASC Senior College and University Commission will visit our campus to complete the reaccreditation process. Accreditation is vital in that it allows UCR and our students to receive federal funding (including financial aid), but it is also an important opportunity to reflect on our challenges and set a course for improvement. I encourage everyone to attend the sessions with the WASC team and to share your perspective on what we do well and what we could be doing better. My office will publicize the final schedule when it is available, but if you cannot attend any of the sessions, there will also be a confidential email address you can use to write directly to the team.

 

To prepare for the reaccreditation visit, we have also scheduled three informational sessions and encourage anyone meeting with the visiting team to attend:

Thursday, October 11, 3:00-3:45, INTS 1113

Wednesday, October 17, 11:00-11:45, HUB 269

Monday, October 22, 4:00-4:45, HUB 269

 

Thank you also for your help so far in gathering the information needed for WASC (often on short deadlines!) and for helping us present a clear picture of UCR to the visiting team.

 

Advancing Faculty Diversity Project Grants. UCR has just received two more grants from UCOP to support programs that focus on recruitment and retention of faculty members who identify as underrepresented minorities. Please join me in congratulating Yat Sun Poon, Chair of Mathematics, and Georgia Warnke, Director of the Center for Ideas and Society, for their successful proposals and in thanking Ameae Walker, Vice Provost of Academic Personnel for helping to shepherd both applications through the process.

 

Mathematics successfully proposed a faculty recruitment program that builds on UCR’s previous “Provost Diversity in Engineering Fellowship” by evaluating the Statement of Contributions to Diversity early in the selection process, providing a year of funded postdoctoral research training anywhere in the US, hosting a symposium for potential candidates to showcase UCR and the department, and by providing resources for new hires to develop skills for teaching mathematics to first generation students.

 

The Center for Ideas and Society has also received a grant to help retain faculty members from underrepresented groups by creating supportive faculty research communities through five-year long interdisciplinary working groups. These groups will foster academic success for their members and help create a second academic home beyond the traditional department setting.

 

Future Course Scheduling Changes. In March of this year, our Course Scheduling Workgroup submitted to me their recommendations for improving how we schedule classes at UCR. I shared this report with our Academic Senate and received very positive feedback, including some helpful suggestions. We will begin implementing the workgroup’s recommendations in 2018-19, although most of you will not experience any changes until Fall 2019. Some of the more noteworthy changes include:
 

  • Starting classes on the hour and half hour beginning in Fall 2019. This will better coordinate class schedules with administrative, employment, and event scheduling conventions that are widely used on and off campus.
  • New priority scheduling rules beginning in Fall 2019. A more student-centered approach will prioritize courses that are of particular importance across majors for timely degree completion, and reduce scheduling conflicts between these courses.
  • No more limits on twoday meeting patterns beginning in Fall 2019. Departments no longer will have to limit their scheduling requests for classes that meet two days per week.
  • Creation of a Course Scheduling Committee beginning in Fall 2018. This committee, including faculty and staff representatives, will oversee implementation of the scheduling policy and will advise the Provost on all aspects of course scheduling.

I am grateful to the workgroup members and to the Senate for its helpful consultation, and I look forward to seeing these and other improvements to our scheduling processes implemented in the coming months.

 

Online Instruction Support Moving to the Center for Teaching and Learning. Our new Vice Provost & Dean for Undergraduate Education (VPDUE), Jennifer Brown, has partnered with our CIO, Danna Gianforte, to strategize about the most effective approach to support teaching innovation and excellence at UCR. Together, they have agreed to transition the current Academic Engagement instructional design team to the Center for Teaching and Learning reporting to the VPDUE. This transition will occur during the fall quarter as part of our efforts to build the Center for Teaching and Learning into a vibrant campus resource.

 

Thursday Night Live Returns October 4. A great way to meet, mingle and make friends with other UCR faculty and staff is by attending Thursday Night Live at the HUB from 5:15 – 8:00 pm starting with an October 4th performance by UCR piano virtuoso Gary Barnett. These family-friendly events feature live music with food and beverages available for purchase and are a lot of fun – I hope to see you there.

 

Best wishes to everyone for an energizing and productive academic year.